David Warren

David Warren

Dr David Warren is an associate research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, and a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Washington University in Saint Louis. He writes on Islam, Politics, and Islamic law.

Location Saint Louis

Activity

  • thank you for your comment here @EcaterinaM. about the number of hours per week, that's something we will likely adjust for next time.

  • thank you @KubraR. We are glad you enjoyed the course. In particular, your final point is a very good one. Perhaps in future we might create a pdf summing up the key points from the course.

  • Thank you @LizBraun. Since in the eyes of the state, couples who only have Islamic marriages in the UK have never been married, the same laws apply as they would to an unmarried cohabiting couple, which is dealt with under the terms of the Children Act.

  • Thank you for highlighting this Aamir. While we noted that Khulud was the first judge of this kind in the Middle East specifically, it looks like it's worth including a note that women have occupied such roles in other parts of the world before this.

  • So, with all that in mind, on the one hand, it is certainly appropriate for the colleagues and students you encountered (perhaps you might like to share where/when that was? Though of course you don’t have to) to make normative assertions about the essense of the Sharia, as they saw it.

    Here, we're not aiming to make any theological claims about what the...

  • Of course there are a variety of interpretations of religious traditions that lead to different, sometimes antithetical practices and assertions. Equally common is that differing communities may have similar practices but with diverse theological justifications for why they carry out those practices.

    With that in mind, we have noted that is certainly...

  • Thank you @VivienneC for these interesting reflections, and indeed for your contributions throughout the past 5 weeks.

    To me, the distinction you’re highlighting here calls to mind the framework we have adopted for this course, which distinguishes between what we can term the academic approach and the theological approach to religious studies.

    You might...

  • Thank you @OlRappaport , we'll take a look at that.

  • @OlRappaport . Alongside your interesting reflections, this looks like a very useful piece of feedback for us to consider next year. Could you elaborate on what you mean when you say it is "not clear how we are to frame our comments". You are also free to suggest some improvements if you like. Many thanks

  • thank you @RohayatiUngku . That video must need some editing since we had initially planned to work with Dr. Bano but later on that proved not to be possible, and so in the end she couldn't be part of the course.

  • Likewise, thank you everyone for your work and comments.

    It was good to see that many of you found examining the constitutions and then contrasting the Nigerian, Tunisian, and Palestinian case studies a good exercise to give a sense of how concepts like Sharia and Islamic law can be defined and manifested in very different ways.

    A good number of you...

  • Thank you @RohayatiUngku the physical copy of Prof. Eltantawi's book has endnotes rather than footnotes, so they don't appear in this sample unfortunately.

  • 2) "How dare I read Allah's words and Mohammed's and think they mean what they say without checking with you? It must be galling in the extreme to you, perhaps in the same way that Catholic priests were appalled when the Bible was printed in English and the plebs were able to read what was in it for themselves."

    We have been clear from the start that the...

  • @FredPrice . I will engage the last two parts of your post directed to me.

    1) "Nor is it news to me that their [ISIS's] claims about scriptural and scholarly authenticity are contrived. I was aware of that long before you told me."

    - In my reading, this conversation began on the premise that you were saying that, not simply that you just disagreed with...

  • But @FredPrice, the central plank of ISIS's claim was that they were perfectly imitating the Islamic past and faithfully replicating the reasonings of the Islamic legal tradition.

    I suppose it is something at least that you now see how that claim is contrived.

    But now, astonishingly, you have moved beyond that and now you're simply arguing that, in your...

  • 3) Later, beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, some Islamists (like al-Ghannushi, who was interestingly formerly a communist) began to change that ideology, and they argued that their understanding of Islamism was democratic.

    In a basic sense (though there is more to it), to make that ideological move al-Ghannushi and others like him re-imagined a Qur’anic...

  • 2) Second, since democracy was associated with American imperialism and secularism (which to Islamists at the time meant the expunging of religion from social life by force, and for many that indeed that was their experience) Islamists articulating their ideology at the time again sought to differentiate themselves by democracy by explicitly stating that...

  • 1) The 1950s/60s, was of course the height of the Cold War, and the two dominant ideologies, as it were, in regions such as the Middle East and South Asia was US-style democratic capitalism or Soviet-style communism.

    In the 1950s/60s countries like Egypt were ruled by military-regimes (like today) but (unlike today) they were generally allies of the Soviet...

  • Thank you @SuhailAnwar , this is an interesting question. So, to give you the gist, first of all one reason that it was presumed that Islam/Islamic law was incompatible with democracy is that this is what Islamists were themselves saying, particularly as many countries started to become independent in the 1950s and 1960s. By Islamism I am referring to this...

  • This is an interesting comment @IanNiven . I hope you don't mind, but I am going to repost this higher up the thread in response to another participant's comment - as I think others might appreciate it.

  • The examples on the next step from northern Nigeria will also be interesting in this light, since it speaks to this distinction about "idealized Sharia" on the one hand (a set of principles about combatting corruption, alleviating poverty etc.) and what northern Nigerians came to call "political Sharia" that referred to the new laws that came in after the 1999...

  • "If I may interject, this is a perfect example of where two different contexts produce a different interpretation of the questions asked, let alone the answers given, in this poll.

    To those of us with a European or North American background, coming from secular societies, often with no established state religion, we see the Sharia as this fixed canon of...

  • Thank you @PeterBates for this comment. A number of participants have noted that the survey is from 2006, so perhaps for the next year we ought to find a more recent/extensive survey that could be compared with this one to examine how the questions may shape the responses.

    There are some other interesting reflections on the survey from other participants,...

  • 8) If you are interested, a couple of academics who have written on this are Prof. Sohiara Siddiqui and Prof. Kecia Ali, so if you would like to read more google their names and you should be able to find some articles on this.

    Like Jonathan Brown, Kecia Ali is also a white convert, though neither of them are setting out to lie to you. With that in mind,...

  • 7) So, yes, ISIS do indeed quote Islamic scripture as they carry out their horrific actions, no one contests that.

    What academic studies show, however, is that even though ISIS and groups like them claim to be literally re-creating the Islamic past, their own interpretations and appropriations of text and medieval are very novel - even if on the surface...

  • 6) The answer is that ISIS’s horrific actions were not only emerging out of a context of a brutal civil war that by that time had been going on for years (though that context is of course highly significant) but they were also pieces of theatre carefully- created for the purposes of terrifying propaganda.

    Their murderous actions (video-taped and then...

  • 5) So, again as Abdul Rahman Mustafa notes in the next activity monetary compensation was the most common legal solution in cases of Qisas, and forgiveness happened also.

    This is what Brown means when he says the Taliban etc. are “recreating a past that never really existed,” because even though ISIS indeed quote premodern Islamic legal principles, their...

  • 4) Consequently, we can see that, while on the surface ISIS do indeed quote scripture and say they are acting in accordance with premodern legal principles like Qisas, we can observe that their reasoning is very different from the premodern reasoning they are claiming to imitate perfectly.

    First, the most obvious difference is that, to a medieval Islamic...

  • 3) As Abdul Rahman Mustafa notes, the most common option in these kinds of cases was the paying of monetary compensation, something the British found particularly frustrating during the colonization of India (see the next activity).

    According to many of the classical legal scholars of the kind you are citing above, in cases involving Qisas the preference...

  • 2) Abdul Rahman Mustafa and the article by Scott Kugle in the next activity discuss this legal principle in more detail, but for our purposes I will highlight some key points.

    As Dr Mustafa notes, Qisas operated in a legal world where the punishment for crimes such as murder was decided upon by the injured party (i.e. the victim’s kin) rather than the...

  • 1) In the video, ISIS justified this action first by quoting the Qur’an 16:126 “And if you would punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith you were punished. But if you are patient, then that is better for the patient.”

    Using this verse as their justification, ISIS argued that they were acting in accordance with the Islamic concept called Qisas...

  • @FredPrice. Like Yahya Barry said, I think this conversation can start winding down now. I will also make some final remarks that go to point 4 of your statement above, and my response will stretch across several comments.

    So, if I repackage your point 4 for the benefit of other participants, essentially you are asking a question about how ISIS approach...

  • Dear course participants, it's great to see that so many of you are finding this exercise useful. From the comments, I noted that a number of people looked at Jordan, with some of you highlighting the circumscribing of Sharia courts and Islamic law to matters of personal status.

    Art 103 (Jordan)

    1. Civil Courts shall exercise their competences in...

  • Thank you @MichaelShaw for this interesting comment, I think you will find her further elaborations over the next two steps particularly interesting.

  • Dear course participants, it's great to see how much so many of you enjoyed the documentary!

    We are pleased to say that we have another fascinating new documentary at the end of next week, which follows the journey of the Palestinian Judge Khulud al-Faqih, the first female judge to be appointed to a Sharia Court (or any religious court for that matter)...

  • Diversity is also partly explained by the varying socio-economic conditions these different communities found themselves in, some communities were brought as slaves, others as cheap labour after WWII, while other migrant communities came from the social elites in their home countries.

    There is also ideological diversity, that is, how different individuals...

  • Thank you @LizBraun, there are a couple of comments I will make here just for now and as you say we can perhaps return to it in more detail at the end of the course.

    As you note, Muslim communities in Europe/America are incredibly diverse in all kinds of ways. Part of that is due to history. While South-West and South-East Europe have an Islamic history...

  • 2) Your second point relates to a feeling you have that the course presents a view of the world that "consists of Muslims and Christians only. Other religions and definitely atheism do not seem to count."

    Here, I would like to point out that as an academic Religious Studies course taught by a university that looks at a topic relating to Islam, it follows...

  • Thank you @LilianvanDijk for your comment here, we do appreciate it.

    So, there are a couple of things I would say here in the light of your comment above.

    1) It sounds like you first concern relates to the fact that the course often refers to either the British or American legal systems (and also South Asia this week) when it seeks to draw a comparison...

  • Thank you @RohayatiUngku and @DanielMuir for your comments here. In this instance, Brown is also acknowledging (speaking from a context of the modern United States as he is) that today for some example some lawmakers in the United States argue for very severe punishments for issues relating to drugs - on the basis that this serves as a deterrent - while...

  • Thank you everyone for another great week! There was lots of material to get through here, and in Week4 we look more at the modern context and consider examples from the Nigerian, Tunisian, and Palestinian contexts.

    In particular, at the end of Week4 we are pleased to share with you all a new documentary called 'The Judge', which follows the journey of the...

  • Thank you to all the participants for sharing such thoughtful and thought-provoking reflections here. One of the great benefits of a course like this is that it allows hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people from all over the world to come together and engage the course material collaboratively.

    It looks like everyone is really appreciating that learning...

  • 18) To wrap up, I will reiterate that it appears the issue that you are having is coming from your reading of sacred texts and medieval manuals without any knowledge of their context or the history of their interpretation. I can sympathize with that, but what I am puzzled by is why you consider academic experts who are presenting information to help you come...

  • 17) So, rather than go on and on, I would suggest to you that you might benefit from adopting for a few weeks the cultural studies approach we asked you to consider at the beginning of this course. This means, rather than adopting a theological approach, here we are interested in learning about diversity of interpretation and the different contexts out of...

  • “This is an excellent question, but the answer depends on the perspective you take. Many Muslim scholars would argue that abrogation already took place during the time of the revelation, when some verses were superseded by others (the prohibiton of wine being one such case, but there are a number of others). Some Qur'anic verses are adduced as evidence for...

  • 16) You have also mentioned a particular classical legal principle called abrogration, a particular method of interpretation that classical scholars created to help them make sense of contrasting verses.

    Here, I will simply re-quote from my colleague Dr Andreas Gorke who addressed this in another comment in...

  • 15) So, when you asking in your comments above why do some people not say God or Muhammad was “wrong,” we can consider this one example of Abdallah Bin Bayyah – an example selected among dozens and dozens - that in his case he does not see a need for something so dramatic.

    In his view, one should start by considering the underlying reason for something,...

  • 14) the quote from Masooda Bano's book continues,

    “Bin Bayyah makes clear that the older Islamic laws were not wrong. That is, that the reason they need to be changed is not because they were derived incorrectly. He argues that traditional Islamic law was correct for its own period, and that some of those rulings are still correct, but that modern rulings...

  • 13) In the case of Jihad then I will give a quote below from a book edited by Masooda Bano about that discusses him,

    “Bin Bayyah argues that the reason jihad was ordained was to proselytize the religion. Given that there were long distances between nations and that it was not possible to send missionaries, jihad became a way of spreading the religion. The...

  • 12) Here, I will cite one one further example, out of the many I could choose from, that comes from a book that happens to sitting on top of my desk at the moment.

    The modern scholar I am referring to is a Mauritanian scholar called Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, who is one of the more respected living scholars alive today. So while he might be an interesting...

  • 11) Your next question relates to asking for references that shed light on how the scholarly elite today reflect on the question of Jihad.

    When ISIS emerged in 2014 out of the horror of the Syrian civil war, which began after the Syrian national army brutally suppressed non-violent calls for democracy, and the continuing bloodshed in aftermath of the...

  • 10) So, in a medieval context where the Muslim scholarly elite authoring those kinds of manuals where not part of a “state bureaucracy” and had no constitutional or executive role in how an empire was being ruled – it can be fruitful to consider those kinds of passages as pedagogical (even polemical at times), that is, authoritative statements that are more...

  • 9) Next, then, I can return to my reading of your comments that sound like you have been looking at some medieval manuals and finding them troubling.

    Here, I can point you back to page 3.8 and Brown's distinction between the concept of premodern law-as-teacher and an authoritative statement of a societies’ values, and the common modern concept of law as...

  • 8) As the footnotes I have quoted above imply, over the centuries the scholarly elite engaged with contrasting verses and hadith using a complex mode of interpretation, rather than ceasing their interpretative efforts at the plain-meaning of fragments of individual verses.

    Consequently, using the examples from The Study Quran we can surmise that it would...

  • 7) As The Study Quran notes, it appears that the classical scholars understood the reason for the Quranic command to the Prophet to fight idolatry on the Arabian Peninsula at that time was not as a result of their unbelief per se, but rather as a result of “years of conflict” on the Peninsula as Muhammad was preaching his message.

    You will find the link to...

  • 6) Next, we have hadith from the Prophet, some of which refer to making war, some of which refer to making peace. So, with these verses and contrasting hadith in mind (taken as a whole rather than simply cherry-picked) just as we saw Muslim scholars pondering the meaning of the khamr/wine, Muslim scholars also pondered how to engage the social reality of the...

  • 5) So, as the footnote I quoted from The Study Quran suggests, let us now turn to verse 2:256, which reads,

    “There is no coercion in religion. Sound judgement has become clear from error. So whosoever disavows false deities and believes in God has grasped the most unfailing handhold, which never breaks. And God is Hearing, Knowing.”

    Here, the Study...

  • 4) “For some v.5 of this Surah [verse] abrogates all previous treaties and obligations in relation to the idolaters. Other commentators and jurists interpret this to mean that the idolaters are fought by reason of their idolatry and polytheism. However, since this passage itself explicitly affirms the validity and propriety of keeping treaties with those...

  • 3) Verses 9:5-7 read, “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer and give alms, then let them go their way. Truly God is Forgiving, Merciful. And if any of the idolaters seek asylum with thee,...

  • 2) First, we can look at some relevant verses itself from the Quran itself that pertain to the subject of conflict.

    My quotes and references to footnotes below are from a translation called The Study Quran (Harper Press, 2015) which I think you would benefit from since, alongside the text itself, it always includes voluminous footnotes and essays...

  • 1) Based on your comments here, and elsewhere, it seems like you have been reading translations from medieval texts written by medieval scholars, and you are finding some of their contents troubling.

    The first thing to say, as we said in Wk1, is that context is important for understanding why interpretations arise. The medieval world was very different...

  • @FredPrice , like @YahyaBarry I would also thank you for taking the time to write so many comments - I mean that. However, it seems that the majority of your comments are based upon materials you have been reading on your own, rather than course material itself.

    There is a sound reason why we have a general policy of not bringing in links and quotes from...

  • @AndrewMartin, so pastoral here is being used in the sense of "giving guidance" though, if you're used to the word's more common meaning of herding cattle or sheep, then I can see why you'd be a little confused!

  • So, for classical scholars, these contrasting sources needed to be interpreted.

    Brown argues that when classical Islamic scholars came to interpret these texts and examples, they took the Qur’an’s emphasis on unlimited mercy, and the hadith saying “avoid the hudud in cases of doubt, it is better to err in forgiving that to err in punishing” very seriously...

  • Thank you @VivienneC. Let us consider your question using the framework for how texts were interpreted from Wk2.

    So, Qur’an and hadith are the basic sources for Islamic law, but not Islamic law in its entirety. As we saw with wine and coffee in Wk2, Islamic law-makers used a complex process of reasoning for interpreting texts.

    We can think about...

  • No problem! Thank you for your thoughtful comments and input.

  • thank you for pointing that out @ClaudiaRodrigues

  • Thank you @EminaFrljak. If you go back to step 3.15, you can find the link to download the journal article by Scott Kugle that is being discussed here as a pdf at the bottom of the step.

  • Thank you @VivienneC. So, an argument the Rumee Ahmed reading makes in Week 1 is that there are foundational differences between how law operates in modern states (i.e. post-19th century) than it did in the pre-modern empires of the Muslim World. With that in mind, the term vast above is alluding to modern states' unprecedented capacity to regulate and impact...

  • Thank you @MorganByatt, this is a good question.

    When Rumee Ahmed wrote that Islamic law as it originally developed was not designed to be applied on a scale comparable to that of a states, he had in mind the modern nation states that emerged in the 19th/20th centuries, with their vast bureaucracies and infrastructures.

    With that in mind, even though...

  • thank you @RohayatiUngku, this is also a good point to highlight

  • This is a very interesting question @ClaudiaRodrigues and, like much of the Qur'an, the reference to wine/khamr in this particular verse has been interpreted in many ways.

    To give you a better-known example, the reference to wine here has been understood in the light of other verses that describe the wine in paradise as a drink "wherefrom they suffer...

  • @MaureenWarwick this is an interesting question, and the fact that, as Prof. Ahmed notes, mosques can be as empty as an any other religion's worship spaces helps us think further about what it means for something like prayer to be considered "obligatory" in Islamic law - when there is no state, institution, or entity that enforces such a 'law'.

  • We are glad you appreciated the video @AmiraAT. As @AlizaT noted, it is available on the director Justin Mashouf's youtube channel and can be shared from there without restriction.